"Courage and Freedom" Address
George W. Bush, September 20, 2001
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President pro tempore, Members of Congress, and fellow
In the normal course of events, Presidents come to this chamber to report
on the state of the Union. Tonight, no such report is needed. It has
already been delivered by the American people.
We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed terrorists to
save others on the ground -- passengers like an exceptional man named Todd
Beamer. Please help me to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight.
We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of rescuers, working
past exhaustion. We have seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of
candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers ... in English,
Hebrew, and Arabic. We have seen the decency of a loving and giving
people, who have made the grief of strangers their own.
My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire world has seen for
itself the state of our Union ... and it is strong.
Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.
Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring
our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be
I thank the Congress for its leadership at such an important time. All of
America was touched on the evening of the tragedy to see Republicans and
Democrats, joined together on the steps of this Capitol, singing "God
Bless America." And you did more than sing, you acted, by delivering forty
billion dollars to rebuild our communities and meet the needs of our
Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Gephardt ... Majority Leader Daschle
and Senator Lott ... I thank you for your friendship and your leadership
and your service to our country.
And on behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its outpouring
of support. America will never forget the sounds of our National Anthem
playing at Buckingham Palace, and on the streets of Paris, and at Berlin's
Brandenburg Gate. We will not forget South Korean children gathering to
pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a
mosque in Cairo. We will not forget moments of silence and days of
mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America.
Nor will we forget the citizens of eighty other nations who died with our
own. Dozens of Pakistanis. More than 130 Israelis. More than 250 citizens
of India. Men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico, and Japan. And
hundreds of British citizens. America has no truer friend than Great
Britain. Once again, we are joined together in a great cause. The British
Prime Minister has crossed an ocean to show his unity of purpose with
America, and tonight we welcome Tony Blair.
On September the eleventh, enemies of freedom committed an act of war
against our country. Americans have known wars ... but for the past 136
years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in
1941. Americans have known the casualties of war ... but not at the center
of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise
attacks ... but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was
brought upon us in a single day ... and night fell on a different world, a
world where freedom itself is under attack.
Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking: Who attacked
our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of
loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al-Qaida. They are the
same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and
Kenya, and responsible for the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.
Al-Qaida is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not
making money; its goal is remaking the world ... and imposing its radical
beliefs on people everywhere.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been
rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics a
fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The
terrorists' directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill
all Americans, and make no distinctions among military and civilians,
including women and children.
This group and its leader a person named Usama bin Ladin are linked to
many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian
Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
There are thousands of these terrorists in more than sixty countries. They
are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods, and brought to
camps in places like Afghanistan where they are trained in the tactics of
terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries
around the world to plot evil and destruction.
The leadership of al-Qaida has great influence in Afghanistan, and
supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In
Afghanistan, we see al-Qaida's vision for the world.
Afghanistan's people have been brutalized many are starving and many have
fled. Women are not allowed to attend school. You can be jailed for owning
a television. Religion can be practiced only as their leaders dictate. A
man can be jailed in Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough.
The United States respects the people of Afghanistan after all, we are
currently its largest source of humanitarian aid but we condemn the
Taliban regime. It is not only repressing its own people, it is
threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying
terrorists. By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is
committing murder. And tonight, the United States of America makes the
following demands on the Taliban:
Deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaida who hide
in your land. Release all foreign nationals ... including American
citizens you have unjustly imprisoned, and protect foreign journalists,
diplomats, and aid workers in your country.
Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in
Afghanistan and hand over every terrorist, and every person in their
support structure, to appropriate authorities.
Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can
make sure they are no longer operating. These demands are not open to
negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They
will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world: We
respect your faith. It is practiced freely by many millions of Americans,
and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its
teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of
Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their
own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America
is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy
is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports
Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will
not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found,
stopped, and defeated.
Americans are asking: Why do they hate us? They hate what we see right
here in this chamber a democratically elected government. Their leaders
are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms our freedom of religion, our
freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such
as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the
Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of
Asia and Africa.
These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a
way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful,
retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against
us, because we stand in their way.
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